Treasure trove of photos makes this book a real page-turner

Cute story: Years ago, Phillies ace Cole Hamels was a young pup in San Diego whose mother, Amanda, worked for the Padres. Aware of young Cole's baseball aspirations, Andy Strasberg, who then was a Padres marketing vice-president, arranged to sign the future pitcher to an authentic Padres contract.

In true Padres fashion, they lowballed Hamels, inking him to a $1 "lifetime deal." The signature of then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn probably was the most valuable part of the deal.

Well, flash forward a couple of decades, and Hamels has settled on his first endorsement since signing a $144 million megadeal with the Phillies last month.

"Andy endorsed me when I was born with a 'lifetime baseball contract'," Hamels says. "He had no authority to issue it, of course. But now I'm endorsing Andy's fan photo book Baseball Fantography. And I've got the authority to do it -- mine counts!"

Excellent choice. The book Baseball Fantography: A Celebration in Snapshots and Stories from the Fans is, quite simply, great fun. An excellent way to spent a late summer's afternoon or evening, a terrific birthday present, heck, a chance to knock off some of your Christmas shopping early.

I've known Strasburg since 1985, and his passion for the game is unsurpassed. His latest idea is original, unique and stunningly simple. After unexpectedly finding a snapshot of himself with Roger Maris in Yankee Stadium in 1966, he was inspired. What if he went on a national search for fans with similar photos ... and then turned it into a book?

So he did. And the result is very cool. There are chapters entitled "Camera Day", "Weather", "Hotels" and "Broadcasters", among many others. The photos range from riveting time capsules -- Lou Brock posing with two fans (one wearing a Black Sabbath T-shirt) in a hotel lobby, Al Michaels walking through an airport in 1972 on a Cincinnati Reds trip -- to the downright quirky -- Mickey Lolich and Joe Torre cruising the Shea Stadium warning track on a motorcycle in 1976 (with Lolich driving and Torre on the seat behind him).

Crack open the book to any page, and you'll keep turning the pages. I guarantee it. Me and Cole Hamels.

Likes: Forty-some games left in the season. You can feel the stretch run right around the corner, can't you? ... The Padres, sold. With local owners. Hey, it'll be much harder to field a crappy team when the owners are in town and, presumably, watching. ... Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'n Roll Survivor, by Al Kooper. Highly recommend this book. Terrific read. Kooper is sort of like the Forrest Gump of rock and roll -- he was there during so many key moments throughout history. He played the organ on Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone, toured as a part of Dylan's band (and was on stage when Dylan famously went electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965), was a founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears, signed and produced early Lynyrd Skynyrd, produced The Tubes, co-wrote This Diamond Ring by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, played sessions with George Harrison and with the Rolling Stones. Kooper has a great writing style and a terrific sense of humor.

Dislikes: Say it ain't so, Melky Cabrera. What will the Melk-men do now? And the Melk-maids? Cabrera owes some serious apologies.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"She went down in an airplane
"Fried getting suntan
"Fell in a cement mixer full of quicksand
"Help me, help me, I'm no good at goodbyes!
"She met a shark under water
"Fell and no one caught her
"I returned everything I ever bought her
"Help me, help me, I'm all out of lies
"And ways to say you died"

-- Train, 50 Ways to Say Goodbye

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